Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders still to live 17 years less than non indigenous Australians in Costello’s 12th budget

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 08 May 2007

The Federal Government’s 2007 budget failed to take the necessary steps to close the 17 year gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders and other Australians with only minor increases in Aboriginal health spending, said the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and Oxfam Australia.
However both Oxfam and NACCHO welcomed the announcement by the Federal Treasurer of some increases to funding for Aboriginal primary health care services and increasing their capacity to deliver quality health standards.
Treasurer of NACCHO, Justin Mohamed was disappointed because the budget failed to deliver adequate investment to meet the level of need. ‘Aboriginal Australians die 17-years less than other Australians and the sad reality is that an increase in health spending of around $120 million over four years won’t close that gap.’
‘In order to close the 17 year gap in life expectancy we were looking for increases in the order of $460 million a year which would mean a $1.6 billion increase in health spending over the next four years. But this budget falls way short of what’s needed to save lives through comprehensive primary heath care.’
‘The government has identified some good areas for investing about $120 million over four years in home visits, primary health care, salaries for workforce, drug control as well as dental assistance. However the needs are so great and this budget just does not go far enough in tackling them. In fact the needs of urban Aborigines where some 75% of the Aboriginal population lives seem to have been ignored altogether,’ said Mr Mohamed.
‘When you look at the chronic disease initiatives for all Australians, yet again we see that the needs of Aboriginal peoples are ignored. The COAG diabetes initiative focuses on preventing diabetes in those aged 40-49 who are at risk. Most Aboriginal peoples with diabetes already have advanced disease by that age,’ he said.
A report published in April by NACCHO and Oxfam ranked Australia bottom of a list of first world wealthy nations working to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal peoples. And it had been hoped that there would be a substantial increase in Aboriginal health spending in this year’s Federal budget that would help to improve their life expectancy.
Executive Director of Oxfam Australia said the health of Australia’s half million Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders had not been adequately prioritized by the Government in this the last budget before what’s likely to be a fiercely contested Federal election. ‘The health and wellbeing of Australia’s Indigenous people is among the worst in the world. The Government has missed an opportunity in this budget to really tackle improving the life expectancy of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders. We now must look to both major parties to close the gap in life expectancy prior to the election.’
‘Today a child born in Bangladesh can still expect to live longer than an Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander and the Government needs to reverse that fact,’ said Mr Hewett.
‘The increase in Indigenous health spending barely registers a dent in what’s needed to improve the health of Aboriginal people. Research from the USA, New Zealand and Canada shows that the morality rates of Indigenous peoples can be reduced by 30 per cent in tens years or less with adequate funding for services such as primary health care,’ said Mr Hewett.
‘Australia is a wealthy nation running a record trade surplus. It is time we spent a little of that good fortune on improving the health and wellbeing of some of Australia’s most vulnerable people, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders,’ said Mr Mohamed ‘The Federal Government can afford it. We’ve seen in this budget that spending for one medicine alone is in the order of $101 million which comes close to matching that allocated for Aboriginal peoples health care. It’s just not right,’ he added.
For an interview with Andrew Hewett or Justin Mohammed call Ian Woolverton on 0409 181 454